A British man has been arrested on suspicion of hacking into US military and government databases, allegedly using SQL injection attacks to take control of "thousands" of computer networks.
The alleged hacker was arrested in Suffolk under the Computer Misuse Act by officers of the newly formed National Crime Agency (NCA).
A statement from the New Jersey attorney’s office states that the man charged is 28-year old Lauri Love of Stradishall, Suffolk.
Love is accused of belonging to a group of hackers which broke into “thousands of networks” to steal confidential information, including many US military and government agencies.
“As part of their alleged scheme, they stole military data and personal identifying information belonging to servicemen and women,” said US attorney Paul J. Fishman. “Such conduct endangers the security of our country and is an affront to those who serve.”
The investigation was led by the US Army Criminal Investigation Command-Computer Crime Investigative Unit, and the FBI, which revealed that the alleged attacks targeted government systems including those of the US Army, US Missile Defense Agency, Environmental Protection Agency and NASA.
The attorney’s office stated that the attacks resulted in ‘millions of dollars’ in losses.
It is claimed that between October 2012 and October 2013, Love and others placed ‘back doors’ in hacked computers which allowed the hackers to return at later dates to steal information. The information is said to pertain to thousands of individuals, including servicemen and servicewomen.
The hackers are said to have discussed the attack in secure online chat forums, identifying vulnerable computer networks, with the aim of the attacks to ‘disrupt the operations and infrastructure’ of the US government, the attorney’s office said.
The group is said to have obtained access to the networks using SQL injection attacks, identifying vulnerabilities in SQL data bases. They also exploited vulnerabilities in a web application platform used by some agencies, known as Coldfusion.
The group used proxy and ‘tor’ servers to hide their identities during the attacks, and used multiple identities in online chat rooms to attempt to evade detection. If convicted, Love faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 (£154,000) fine.
According to the NCA, the defendant has now been released on bail until February 2014.
Commenting on the arrest, Andy Archibald, head of the NCA's NCCU, said: "This arrest is the culmination of close joint working by the NCA, Police Scotland and our international partners.
"Cyber-criminals should be aware that no matter where in the world you commit cyber crime, even from remote places, you can and will be identified and held accountable for your actions.
“The NCA has well-developed law enforcement alliances globally and we will pursue and deal robustly with cyber-criminals."